Pasco County School is redrawing boundaries

Turnout was light for a public workshop regarding school boundaries held last week at Wiregrass Ranch High School.

Thousands of students will be affected by the proposed changes, but the vast majority of changes relate to Cypress Creek Middle School, which is set to open in the fall of 2020.

The school district initially had planned to open both a high school and a middle school on the campus at 8701 Old Pasco Road.

Chris Williams, director of planning for Pasco County Schools, explains proposed boundaries for Cypress Creek Middle School, during a public workshop on proposed school boundary changes. (Christine Holtzman)

But, the district was short on funding, so initially the high school buildings were used to house students in grades six through 12.

When the new middle school opens next fall, students in grades six through eight will shift to the new building.

But, boundary changes are needed to fill up remaining capacity at both the middle school and the high school.

The proposed changes primarily affect the Seven Oaks neighborhood, said Chris Williams, director of planning for Pasco County Schools.

Specifically, the school district is proposing that 613 students now zoned to Wiregrass Ranch High School be shifted to Cypress Creek High School, and seven students zoned to Pasco High School be rezoned to Cypress Creek High School.

If that’s approved, the estimated enrollment at Cypress Creek High School would be 2,080, in a school which has a permanent capacity of 2,090.

After the proposed shift, Wiregrass Ranch would have an enrollment of 1,606 students, in a school with a permanent capacity of 1,633. Pasco High would have an enrollment of 1,602, in a school with a permanent capacity of 1,491.

The proposed boundary changes also call for shifting over to Cypress Creek Middle, an estimated 446 students now zoned to John Long Middle and five students now zoned to Pasco Middle.

If those changes are approved, Cypress Creek Middle would have an estimated 1,554 students, in a school with a permanent capacity of 1,600. John Long Middle would have 1,167 students, in a school with a permanent capacity of 1,327. Pasco Middle would have 918 students, in a school with a permanent capacity of 875.

Under the proposal, seven students living along State Road 52, at the north end of Old Pasco Road, would be reassigned from Pasco High to Cypress Creek High.

That shift is being proposed because where they live is a straight shot to Cypress Creek High, Williams said. “We felt that made sense.”

Alex Morales, of Wesley Chapel, center, and his wife Jessica, speak with Wayne Bertsch, communications and government liaison for Pasco County Schools, about their concerns relating to proposed school boundaries. The Morales family lives in Seven Oaks, a neighborhood that is currently zoned for Wiregrass Ranch High School, but under the new proposal, will be zoned for Cypress Creek High School.

The district also is proposing to shift an attendance area with 17 students in San Antonio Elementary over to Quail Hollow Elementary.

“These kids currently go to San Antonio Elementary, Pasco Middle and Pasco High. So, now they’re going to go to Quail Hollow Elementary, Cypress Creek Middle and Cypress Creek High,” Williams said.

In another proposed change, an attendance area with 143 students now zoned to Wesley Chapel High would be reassigned to Zephyrhills High. That would bring Zephyrhills High’s enrollment to 1,780, at a school with a permanent capacity of 2,004. It would bring Wesley Chapel High’s enrollment to 1,438, at a school with a permanent capacity of 1,506.

Williams said the change addresses a previous boundary shift.

“We rezoned some kids several years ago out of Wiregrass and John Long into Wesley Chapel and Weightman. We kind of shifted these kids over to Stewart Middle, but there wasn’t room at Zephyrhills, so they went to Wesley Chapel.

“The bulk of these kids go to Chester Taylor Elementary, then they go to Stewart and then they go to Wesley Chapel,” Williams said.

The planning director also noted that “Wesley Chapel has all of this growth coming from Epperson Ranch.

“So, we think it makes sense to fix the feeder pattern. Elementary and middle doesn’t change: They’ll still go to Chester Taylor and Stewart Middle. But, now they’ll go to Zephyrhills (High),” Williams said.

Zephyrhills High has room because the district just built a new classroom wing there.

As of last week, Williams had not received any feedback on the proposed shift affecting Zephyrhills High.

Overall, he has received about three dozen comment cards regarding the proposed boundary shifts changes — the vast majority coming from the Seven Oaks neighborhood.

As is often the case, those commenting said they’d bought their home in a specific neighborhood because of the school their child would attend, or they objected to the change because the new school is farther away from their home than their current school.

When the district drew up the original boundaries for Cypress Creek Middle High, it announced it would likely be shifting the Seven Oaks neighborhood over when the new middle school opened.

But, apparently that word did not get out to everyone, Williams said.

Jessica and Alex Morales, who live in Seven Oaks, said they moved into the neighborhood so their daughter could finish high school at Wiregrass Ranch. But, it now appears that their son, who is a freshman at Wiregrass Ranch, will be reassigned to Cypress Creek High next fall.

They attended the public workshop to see if there was any possibility their son could stay at Wiregrass Ranch High.

“We had moved from New York. He met all of his friends in sixth grade,” Jessica Morales said.

Under the proposal, he’ll be attending a high school that’s different from many of his friends.

“We’re trying to lessen that blow,” she said.

The family also has a second-grader they need to think about, too, she said.

They are planning to learn more about what Cypress Creek High has to offer.

Williams said there are other boundary changes proposed that would affect an area near State Road 52 and the Suncoast Parkway that is currently undeveloped, but has been approved for a massive development.

The proposal calls for assigning the entire area to Mary Giella Elementary, Crews Lake Middle School and Hudson High, Williams said.

Under the current boundaries, some of that future growth would have been assigned to Land O’ Lakes High, Pine View Middle and Connerton Elementary.

Anyone who wishes to comment on the district’s proposed boundaries can fill out a comment form by going to the district’s website, at Pasco.k12.fl.us.

The Pasco County School Board will have a public hearing on the proposed boundaries on Nov. 5 at 6 p.m., at 7227 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes. The final public hearing is set for the same location on Nov. 19 at 6 p.m.

Published October 16, 2019

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